SEO In Action: Protecting Collection Agencies

Naveen Hariprasad

Recently, one of our Creative Services clients was faced with an interesting Search Engine Optimization (SEO) challenge. A pending court case against them was showing up in the Google search results for their company name. For the sake of this case study, let’s call them Acme Collections. The challenge for was to bump the listing off the front page of search results.

This would not be easy, as the site we were trying to remove was a listing. For those not familiar, Justia aggregates all publicly available data about court cases. Their site is massive and receives a huge number of backlinks (external links back to their site), which contributes to their already stellar SEO performance.

The specific search string that displayed the result was “acme collections california.” The first action I took was to analyze the page I wanted to remove – why was it showing up? What was it optimized for? Using a third-party tool, I saw that the page was optimized for just the case docket, which included the company’s name. Curiously, the state was only present in the body of the page. This meant that if I targeted the search string “acme collections california” I might have some success since the Justia page was not actively doing so.

Some notes on Justia: their page rank is 8/10 (which isn’t a performance metric but more of a measure of Google’s estimation of their quality) and they have a lot of backlinks to their site. In short, this is a powerful domain which is clearly viewed by users as a resource – a fact that weighs heavily in Google’s algorithm.

So now I had to optimize existing Acme web content for the search term. I took a look through their website and realized that we had to do some basic code optimization as well as on-page content work. After the code fixes were done, I optimized pages for the search string “acme collections california” where appropriate, including the title tag. If you’ve read any of our SEO materials, you’d know that the title tag is the most important bit of information on your site’s pages when it comes to SEO (and if you don’t, check out the ARM Marketing Guide!), so I used the string in titles where it made sense and made sure to give each page a unique title.

ARM Marketing: Getting Started

Unfortunately, the agency’s domain lacked the power beat out Justia on its own. We needed to make sure that we were generating as much content as possible to overtake the negative result, so in addition to on-page optimization we helped Acme develop some blog posts which would live in multiple locations, including our site.

This was especially valuable as our site wins a great deal of ARM-related terms and is a unique weapon for ARM firms looking to increase their SEO performance. Additionally, we optimized some social media sites to target the search string and also used local search listings to create more potential results. All three types of content played a large role and eventually overtook the negative result.

This whole process took over a month and involved quite a bit of analysis, execution, and patience. The lesson here is to never believe consultants who claim that they can get you to the top of Google results in a matter of days or weeks. In fact, Matt Cutts of Google explained how Google views “black-hat” SEO techniques as spam – basically, if you don’t try to manipulate the system and play within the rules, you will be rewarded for your efforts. Violate Google’s trust in an attempt to fool them and your site’s ranking will pay the price. Above all, patience and a proper understanding of the online environment for collection agencies is critical for any SEO efforts in our industry.